Wish you could use that Apple TV box next to your TV for web browsing, reading RSS feeds, or even just playing DivX video? You could do a little software hacking yourself, or if you're worried about mucking things up, you could pay $60 for a USB stick from aTV Flash loaded with software that will do all the dirty work for you.
Here are just a few of the things you'll be able to do with your newly hacked Apple TV:
Play DivX, XviD, AVi, and WMV files
Play uncoverted DVD files
Sync and play videos without iTunes
Surf the web with a WebKit/Safari-based browser
Rent HD movies from Jaman
View weather forecasts
Read RSS feeds
And best of all, the developers claim the software does not void your Apple TV warranty.
But the much more exciting news (if you happen to be a big nerd) is that hackers have figured out how to load Linux on an Apple TV. That means if you're a fan of the Apple hardware, but not so much the Apple TV interface, you might be able to turn your box into a MythTV FrontEnd, or even load a port of XBMC, the media center suite originally developed to run on converted Xbox video game systems.
You can find out more about the Linux bootloader at the atv-bootloader page.
There aren't many details about the box yet, but Blockbuster is reportedly set to announce it later this month. The box will offer hardware to compliment software the company already owns. Blockbuster acquired Movielink last year. The service provides users with the ability to rent or purchase digital movies which can be downloaded to a computer.
But PVR Wire readers aside, most people don't have their televisions connected to their computers, so a set top box seems like a good idea. You know, until you count up the other set top boxes you've got lying around. As Dave Zatz points out, it would probably make a lot more sense for Blockbuster to develop technology that would allow the company to send video to existing devices like a TiVo, video game console, or even a network enabled DVD player.
Users can also view online photos from .Mac and Flickr pages. You can check out your own images or pictures shared by your friends and contacts. You can also listen to music while you play a photo slideshow.
The price cut is likely a response to Apple's announcement that the Apple TV is now available for $229. Apple TV owners can also download videos directly to their boxes now, with no computer required. That makes the Apple TV kind of like a much cheaper Vudu with far more features. You can also use it to watch web video or access content stored on your PC.
When it comes to HD video, Vudu has the edge, with 1080i/1080p24 support while the Apple TV can only handle 720p videos.
If you're one of the handful of folks who have already shelled out $400 for a Vudu, you can get a $100 coupon towards video downloads if you've purchased your box within the last 30 days by calling Vudu customer support.
BBC Future Media and Technology Director Ashley Highfield writes on his blog that the BBC is encouraged by this week's announcement that Apple TV users will be able to download content directly to their set top boxes, no computer required. It's probably safe to say the BBC will be in touch with Apple soon.
But Highfield says the BBC is also looking into other ways to get content onto the TV, such as the Xbox 360 or the Neuros OSD. So far, the iPlayer service has only been available to UK viewers. But as the BBC expands the service, I'm holding out hope that they'll offer up a subscription or pay-per-download version for viewers in the rest of the world.
So Apple TV take 2 lets users download movies from iTunes directly. No computer required. Oh yeah, and you can also rent movies now, with prices ranging from $2.99 to $4.99. Older movies will be at the lower end of the scale, with new releases and HD rentals filling out the higher end.
There's also support for more watching more YouTube videos, Flickr images, and .mac support. Apple has also dropped the price of the Apple TV from $299 to $229. And current users can get all of the new features through a free software upgrade.
There's still not PVR functionality, which some people were hoping for. But all things considered, the new Apple TV at $229 is a lot more attractive than the old version with fewer features for $299.
In case you've forgotten, the Archos TV is an internet connected device that lets you watch streaming video from the web or from other computers on your home network. It also packs full web browser, and a hard drive for downloading video from CinemaNow or for storing recorded television programs.
The Archos TV will come in two varieties, with an 80GB version selling for $249 and a 250GB model selling for $349. The set top box also comes with a funny looking QWERTY remote control for searching for videos or web surfing.
While Apple has yet to authorize third party development on the Apple TV, hackers have been adding applications to the box pretty much since the day it was released.
Hackers have added RSS feeds, support for non-iTunes videos, and the ability to upgrade your hard drive. Now Jaman has released the first commercial plugin for renting movies from the Jaman service. But since Apple doesn't support any 3rd party Apple TV applications, the only way to install the Jaman player is by hacking your TV. In other words, don't expect any support from Apple if you wind up messing up your system. In fact, even Jaman says they won't offer support for their Apple TV software.
If that last paragraph didn't scare you off, you can find a detailed review and installation guide at Apple TV Hacks.
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